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Pemberton industrial park service costs soar

Landowners to discuss how to proceed with $3.2 million water and sewer project

The cost of bringing sewer and water to the Pemberton industrial park has risen nearly 50 per cent since the original estimate was developed.

According to Associated Engineering, the current cost for the project is now $3.2 million, up from $2.3 million. This reflects an increase in both the scope of work, which now includes gravity sewer and water connections, as well as a 12 to 15 per cent increase in construction costs.

In addition, before any work can now proceed the Village of Pemberton has to ascertain its ability to borrow funds and consult with owners of the property to discuss the increase.

One of the options suggested by David Allen, VOP director of services, at last week’s council meeting was moving forward by providing sewer first, as the water needs of the park are currently being addressed by an agreement with Mount Currie.

"Would adding water later cost a lot more?" asked Councillor Mark Blundell.

VOP engineering consultant Grant Campbell said that while waiting longer would see the impact of Olympic-related cost increases in labour, a delay would not significantly impact economies of scale.

Mayor Jordan Sturdy suggested that the project go out to tender with the previous budget as a benchmark.

Allen opposed this, saying that it felt premature. He explained that the expectation of tenders is that the money is in place and the project is ready to go as contractors will spend between $25,000 and $50,000 on putting together their tenders. Furthermore, he said, given the changes to the project, consultation with the owners had to occur before any course of action could be taken.

"It would be essential to meet and consult with the landowners to seek input from them to see if they feel comfortable about moving in one direction or anther," said Allen.

Cam McIvor, a major landowner in the industrial park, pointed out that the lack of services was having a far-reaching effect on owners.

"The banks won’t finance without services. And now we’re faced with a $450,000 increase, possibly half-a-million within a year. We’re struggling in the industrial park," said McIvor.

He suggested that the VOP release petitions outlining possible remedies that the group could review before the proposed May 30 meeting with the village.

"In the meantime council could then determine the borrowing abilities. If we can get the documents into our laps quickly we could have a decision on May 30. If it’s a yes, we can proceed and go to tender."

Allen agreed to the request.

Eager to proceed with the project, McIvor said his biggest fear was losing time over summer due to vacation.

Chief Administrative Officer Lori Pilon confirmed information pertaining to the VOP’s borrowing ability in light of the increased project costs could also be known before the meeting with VOP staff and consultants.

While the project has been on the books for years, there is at least one industrial park landowner who doesn’t agree with the undertaking.

"Why would we be servicing the IP when 70 per cent of the businesses are going broke?" asked Martin Dahinden.

Dainden said he is currently paying $4,000 a year in taxes and another $400 month to pay for services would make it prohibitive.

Another problem that arose was the engineering report itself. Mayor Sturdy asked why for the past eight or nine months the report had been within 10 per cent complete.

Allen called the question valid and said large engineering firms are not as responsive as the VOP would like. The arrangement with Associated Engineers was entered into in 1999 for a five-year period. Allen said that while the industrial park project was too far along to consider bringing on another firm, it was probably time to revisit the agreement.